What is the relationship between exercise and failure?
Simply said, it’s completing repeats, frequently in numerous sets, until you can’t anymore. The muscle ceases to function.
That seems obvious, but is it correct?
Both yes and no.
To begin with, most people think of a “muscle” when they read or write about this, i.e. biceps, triceps, etc. A muscle, on the other hand, is made up of many, many fibers, and it is the damage to these fibers that causes muscular development.
True, if you COULD do curls until you couldn’t any more, you’d almost surely be boosting muscle growth. That incredibly stressful and unpleasant action is most likely to be done by a professional bodybuilder or weight lifter.
What about those of us who just want to grow stronger, more physically fit, and perhaps build some bigger, showier muscles in the process? What if WE don’t want to go to the professional’s extremities or are just not ready or able to go that far? Are we destined to be 97-pound weaklings for the rest of our lives?
Not always, and here’s why.
Remember the separate muscle fibers that comprise the larger, entire muscle… the one with a name? If you utilize enough weight when working out, you will be training those particular fibers, some of which are not very strong to begin with. You will be straining and shredding those weaker fibers as you workout rep after rep, and they will “fail.”
Other fibers will take their place, and some will “fail” as your workout progresses.
Furthermore, at various positions of muscular expansion and contraction, multiple “bundles” of muscle fibers will come into play, taking over or ceding movement to other bundles.
So, if you use “enough” resistance or complete enough reps, you WILL fatigue certain muscle fibers and muscle fiber bundles. As the experts have predicted, this failure will result in muscular development.
Furthermore, because many of those huge, named muscles contain many portions, such as the bicep, practicing with diverse workouts can induce growth in those areas, allowing the entire muscle to work with bigger weights and accomplish more repetitions.
For example, I discovered that adding triceps extensions to my training program resulted in muscle growth in previously under-trained regions, allowing me to utilize higher weights in presses and push ups, which resulted in muscular growth in previously stagnant places.
Yes, you should certainly workout to failure for muscle growth, but unless you want to be a professional bodybuilder or compete in weight lifting contests, simply keep attempting to advance and perform your reps, and add alternate training for additional size and strength growth.